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Florida vs. South Carolina: Is an era ending, no matter the outcome?

Will Muschamp and Steve Spurrier are both in precarious positions — and, perhaps, on the precipice of their final days with their respective programs.

Streeter Lecka

If Florida loses to South Carolina on Saturday, the chances of Will Muschamp returning as the Gators' head coach in 2015 will dwindle to near zero.

But if South Carolina loses to Florida, the chances of Steve Spurrier wanting to return as the Gamecocks' head coach in 2015 might drop to near zero, too.

Either way, this game is probably going to end an era.

For Muschamp, it really hasn't been much of an era, and his departure wouldn't really be that great of a loss in most minds. Muschamp's got a shot at piloting Florida to a 10-win season, but it will require lucking into an SEC Championship Game berth and upsetting a powerful SEC West team and upsetting Florida State in Tallahassee and winning a bowl game afterward to climb to that plateau.

That's a far cry from the days enjoyed by fans when the guy who will stalk the visitors' sideline on Saturday was garbed in orange and blue.

And a loss would consign Florida to finishing no better than 8-4 on the year; the Gators would need to topple mighty FSU and win a bowl game just to get to that mark. After wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt that restored a fair bit of the faith lost in dispiriting defeats against LSU and Missouri, a loss to South Carolina would be a slate-wiper.

My thinking is that Muschamp can't survive a postseason job evaluation from Jeremy Foley with a tabula rasa: There must be something on the board, basically, for Foley to grant Muschamp another year.

While he'd never admit it publicly, Spurrier would probably love nothing more than to salvage his own season by forcing his alma mater to hire another coach.

But Spurrier's ship is in dire straits in its own right.

Spurrier, whose Florida tenure included just three seasons without double-digit wins — a feat Muschamp will match if the Gators lose on Saturday — is looking for any port in a storm, as his Gamecocks have scuffled in 2013 after three straight 11-win seasons.

South Carolina has lost to Missouri at home, just like Florida, but it has also been blown out by Texas A&M, and choked away big leads against Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The garnet and black brigade sits at 4-5, the record Florida held entering its game with the 'Cocks in 2013, and, like that Gators squad, needs a road win to have bowl hopes that aren't dependent on a big win over an ACC rival at year's end.

If Florida prevails on Saturday, the Gamecocks will be in danger of missing a bowl for just the second time in Spurrier's tenure, after a 6-6 campaign in 2007 ended with five straight losses and no postseason invite. And when that plummet from top-10 finishes and preseason SEC contender hype ends, the guy steering the ship will probably look even more harried than he has all year.

Spurrier is many things, and we love him for most of them, but he's unquestionably a sore loser. He's spent this season doling out his typically folksy snark, but it doesn't zing from the coach of a losing team like it does from the commander of a juggernaut, and Spurrier's minute-loss press conference after losing to Tennessee did him no favors.

It hasn't looked fun for Spurrier this year, not at all. Nothing but winning is, in fairness, for Spurrier as lion-in-winter, but thus far, his team is far from even being good.

Carolina is a touchdown underdog this weekend, and so is Spurrier. Garnet and Black Attack suggests that such a line is fair, going so far as to lament that Vanderbilt's defense is better than the Gamecocks' unit, which has been torched for 30 points in all but one SEC contest this season.

Florida put up 34 on the 'Dores, and 38 on Georgia's significantly better defense (USC had just 35 in its own meeting with Georgia), and seems to have found an offensive rhythm with Treon Harris at the helm. The Spurrier-coordinated South Carolina offense, which has been fine in its own rights, has a tough test before it in Florida's defense, playing with as much speed and confidence as it has all season.

And a loss to the team that he led to the promised land would leave Spurrier with SEC wins over just Georgia and Vanderbilt in 2014.

That would be the more likely outcome, given the lines, the setting, "momentum," and a matchup that would seem to favor a Florida outfit that can run the ball to take the lead and blanket the field with playmaking defensive backs if it holds one.

It would be fitting, of course, if Florida was the team to convince the Head Ball Coach to move to Neptune Beach and work on his handicap.

This isn't quite two coaches pitting their teams in a must-win game that will get the loser pink-slipped by night's end: Muschamp isn't getting fired, if he does, until after the season, and Spurrier isn't getting fired, period, with the decision to return almost certainly up to him.

But a loss may well be the first domino to fall on either man's last days.